PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.

The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.

Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.

It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.

On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.

There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.

The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.

It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.

By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.

I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.

After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.

I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.

I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.

Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.

The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.

“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”

I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THAT CRAZY AUNT

We are in stage 4 lockdown where I live, which means people can only go out for four reasons – medical, work, and food and exercise within 5km of their residence. Besides homeschooling the children and the odd walk around the block, I’ve not discovered much inspiration or writing seeds for blog posts. I thought I’d use this time to work on my storytelling/writing skills using past experiences with some creative licence. Hope you enjoy my stories!


“Enough with the spying! Bring these plates out,” yelled Mum, upon seeing me half-crouched underneath the window sill.

I let the curtains fall back into place and did as Mum asked, bringing plates of tofu and cabbage to the dining table. I paused and pondered, repositioning cutlery and food around the hot-pot to make it visually appealing. Satisfied with the result, I wandered back to my spot by the window to watch for arriving guests, careful not to be seen. I didn’t want to look like a weirdo or anything.

I invited just about everyone, even the mean girl from class because statistical probability and all that. I wasn’t entirely confident with the RSVPs, what if they pulled out? I didn’t want to be known as the loner girl who had a party that no one came to. How horrifying would that be? I couldn’t go back to school ever again!

“Don’t touch the food Aunty Ut!” I called out after noticing her small stature hovering around the food. Aunty Ut was worse than a bloodhound with a penchant for free meals and table manners rivalling that of Cookie Monster on a binge fest. I didn’t appreciate her presence here cramping my style. Not that I had any style other than geek and meek. Still, having a crazy and uncouth aunt saying and doing strange things wouldn’t help with my social status or keeping friends.

“What? I didn’t touch anything! I’m just looking!” exclaimed Aunty Ut, looking sheepish at being caught.

I gave her a withering glare before turning down the volume on the TV, kicking the mess of microphone cables to the side. Dad had turned on the Vietnamese karaoke music to a deafening level. Thank goodness our neighbours were hard of hearing.

“Go check the garage. I’ve finished setting it up.” Dad mumbled through a mouthful of duct tape while bent over on the ground sticking power cables to the carpet. The extension cords snaked along the walls, outside the window and to the garage, where several large speakers were set up to play music for the dancing.

I bypassed Mum and Aunty Ut, ignoring their bickering over the right amount of MSG for soup stock and headed towards the garage. All the junk was pushed farther back into the single two-car deep garage and a tarp hung from the ceiling, giving the feel of an empty warehouse, albeit small.

“Your friends are here!” My seven-year-old brother hollered before running off.

Filled with excitement and nerves, I raced out to greet my guests. To my delight, most of the invitees had come to my birthday party. Having no experience with attending or hosting a birthday party, I started the hot-pot immediately after everyone’s arrival to avoid awkward conversations or unnecessary foot shuffles.

I cringed inwardly upon seeing some of the girls wrinkling their noses at the unfamiliar foods. Some couldn’t eat seafood while others didn’t know what hot-pot was.

“This jar is expired!” One of the mean girls was holding up a jar of hoisin sauce and showing everyone around the table.

Blushing with embarrassment, I grabbed the jar off her and apologised. “Uh, I don’t know how that got there.”

I gave the jar to Mum and asked quietly if we had another one that was in date. I winced when her annoyed voice boomed across the room, loud enough for those standing next door to hear.

“What? Why? It’s still good! You young kids not understand hard work and money. When I was younger, I ate everything!” Mum’s diatribe continued until she ran out of puff. Luckily it didn’t take long.

Returning to the room, I put on my happy face and pretended like no one heard Mum and her ranting. All mothers rant, right? So it’s not something these girls haven’t heard before.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Feels like a sauna!”

Aunty Ut had turned on the ducted heating to thirty degrees. Who in their right mind would turn on a heater while eating hot-pot on a mild Spring day? I swore she had a few missing screws.

“What?! It’s good to sweat for the pores!” Aunty Ut and her terrible excuses.

Thankfully, we finished the hot-pot without further problems. I ushered my new friends to the makeshift dance floor and with the radio blasting in a darkened room, the atmosphere changed and the party improved.

“What are you doing?” asked a girl named Leila, who stopped her dancing to look at me.

With arms flailing and legs shuffling from side to side at supersonic speeds, I replied, “Dancing Hip Hop?” I might have replicated Urkel’s Dance.

“Oh no girl, this is how you do it. Slow your movements and bend lower.” Leila and a few others took pity on me and gave a few pointers on how to look cool dancing to R&B music.

Amidst learning how to pop and lock, the sound of Vietnamese pop music started blaring through the speakers, causing the dancing to grind to a halt.

“Dad! No one wants to listen to Vietnamese folk songs!”

It seemed like a good time as any for cake.

“Happy birthday!”

The smiles on everyone’s faces and well-wishes filled me with warmth, and I beamed with happiness. I wouldn’t have called the party a complete success, considering a few unexpected setbacks, but overall, it had turned out ok. I could see myself being close friends with some of these girls. Maybe if Mum and Dad stayed put this time, I could even have a best friend.

I leaned over the cake and readied to blow out the candles. From the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of Aunty Ut moving into my periphery, lips in the shape of an O and in slow-mo horror, let out a gigantic snozzy sneeze all over my cake. In her efforts, she snuffed out the flames of fifteen birthday candles.

There was a collective gasp as boogers landed on the cake followed by the wailing sound that escaped from my lips. It was of little surprise that not a single person wanted a slice of cake, including the birthday girl.

I thought expired food, Mum’s ranting and sitting in furnace-like temperatures were bad enough, but BoogerGate and Dad belting out karaoke songs upon the guests departing took the party to a level beyond salvageable.

As far as parties go being memorable, at least people will be talking about mine for some time.

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FAT NEEDLE FOR A FAT BOTTOM

Reflection from 13/07/20 – In stage 3 lockdown, dreaded remote school learning has returned.

Getting older sucks donkey balls. My hair has started falling out at such an alarming rate that I fear I’ll be as bald as a baby’s bottom in a matter of years. Gravity is waging and winning the war against my breasts. My stomach refuses to stay tucked inside my pants. My skin is constantly dry. 

I especially hate the aches and pains. My joints have started hurting. Standing too long causes back pain. Sleep is hard to come by.  My vision continues to deteriorate. It’s these problems that make me acutely aware that I’m no longer a spring chicken and that I should I start looking after my physical health.

Today I went to get an ultrasound and cortisone injection into my right hip. I have another one schedule next week for my left shoulder. I’ve have bursitis (inflammation in the bursae, the fluid pads that cushion the joints), that I’ve left untreated for years. I sought medical intervention when the pain began impacting the quality of my sleep and became so unbearable that I couldn’t fall asleep without taking paracetamol at night.

After changing into a blue gown, the radiographer led me to a small treatment room and positioned me on the bed. There is nothing more embarrassing than having your naked butt cheek intimately exposed to complete strangers. I mean, I guess these people are professionals and see this sort of stuff all the time, but it doesn’t make it any less awkward.

As we waited for the radiologist to arrive, I reflected on why I was there: my aversion to sweating and exercise, preference for cheap shoes, unsteady gait (not alcohol related, I promise!), year on year weight gain, addiction to anything fried/battered/salty.

An older gent with a rotund belly entered the room and gave a perfunctory introduction and explanation of the procedure. 

“Can you point to where the pain is the worst?” asked the doctor, holding a tube of jelly and the ultrasound wand.

“Uh here?” I pointed to a sore spot on my hip.

“Okay. If I point here, does it hurt? What about here? And here?” The doctor poked various areas before putting jelly on the spot I pointed to and placed the wand on my skin.

“Hmmm, Jenny show me the picture further down. Yes, 34. Right, that’s a tight spot to get a needle in.” He was doing a lot of muttering to himself.

“Um, will it help if I move my position?” I asked, trying to be helpful. I mean I didn’t want him making a mistake if I could help it.

“No. It won’t matter. The spot that the needle has to be inserted is very narrow. I will need to change the needle size.” He turned away to grab another needle from the tray.

“I guess it will hurt more then,” I offered weakly.

“Yes and no. It will feel like an intramuscular injection. Look I’ll show you the difference.” He held up two needles. One was about two inches longer and double the thickness. I took an audible gulp.

“There is a thick layer of fat the needle needs to get through, so we must use this needle. Do you need a local anaesthetic? How is your pain threshold?”

Did this dude just inadvertently call me a fat ass? Like literally? And now asking if I was a wimp??

“I’ve given birth to two kids. I think I can handle a needle,” I muttered, somewhat crossly.

It did hurt, but only when the needle struck close to the bone and the fluid was being injected. Not that I would admit it to the doctor.

“You did very well. You didn’t even wince. I say that ‘cos I’ve had patients say they have a high pain threshold and start asking for a local as soon as the needle hits the skin.” Seemed like high praise from the good doctor. Still didn’t take the sting from his unintentional fat ass comment.

I left the radiology clinic almost two hundred dollars out of pocket, with a sore hip, and a slightly bruised ego. Hopefully, when I return next week, he won’t need the fat needle for my shoulder.

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